Christopher Hitchens and the Days of Rage

On March 23, the Associated Press published a story dealing with sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church to little fanfare. It noted that allegations of sexual abuse involving the Catholic Church in the United States dropped in 2009, and that most of the alleged offenders “are dead, no longer in the priesthood, removed from ministry, or missing.” The article also noted that “Of the allegations reported in 2009, six involved children under the age of 18 in 2009.” It is easy to see why this story was not front page news in the New York Times: it is hard to use such numbers to convince the public to demand the resignation of Benedict XVI.

That, of course, is the object of the recent media campaign against the Pope, one that has seen everyone with an axe to grind against the Catholic Church clamber on board. Richard Dawkins, writing on the Washington Post website, described Benedict as “A leering old villain in a frock,” the leader of a “profiteering, woman-fearing, guilt-gorging, truth-hating, child-raping institution,” one that is destined to tumble about Benedict’s ears, “amid a stench of incense and a rain of tourist-kitsch sacred hearts and preposterously crowned virgins.” One wonders if the Post or the Times ever published similar condemnations of the Soviet Union, let alone such a description of any non-Christian religion. Dawkins declined to tell those lapping up his purple prose that, in 2006, he had written that “we live in a time of hysteria about pedophilia” and that “All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affection for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety. That was indeed reprehensible. Nevertheless, if fifty years on, they had been hounded by vigilantes or lawyers as no better than child murderers, I should have felt obliged to come to their defense, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).” Dawkins even wrote that “I can’t help wondering if [the Catholic Church] has been unfairly demonized over this issue.”

Dawkins’ fellow atheist and close ideological ally Christopher Hitchens has never expressed any such doubts about the perfidy of the Catholic Church. Hitchens, after all, opposed John Roberts’ nomination to the Supreme Court, in essence, because Roberts is Catholic, has said of Mother Teresa that “I wish there was a hell for the bitch to go to,” and recently described Thomas More as “one of history’s wickedest men.” It should come as no surprise, then, that Hitchens devoted three successive columns to attacking the Pope. To Hitchens, Benedict is cut from the same cloth as Mother Teresa and Thomas More. He is a “grisly little man,” whose “whole career has the stench of evil.” But Hitchens’ case against the Pope, relying on the reporting of the Times and Hitchens’ own flights of fancy, falls short.

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Read the entire article on the Chronicles of Culture website.

Date posted: April 11, 2010